steven.bray

Rate update: The big reason mortgage rates aren’t lower

 Interest Rates, Residential Mortgage  Comments Off on Rate update: The big reason mortgage rates aren’t lower
Aug 142019
 

For more information, please contact me at (512) 261-1542 or steve@LoneStarLending.com.

By G. Steven Bray

Trade uncertainty last week set off a feeding frenzy in the bond market. Investors gobbled up Treasury bonds in a flight-to-safety buying spree that saw the 10-year rate drop by 40 basis points (0.4%) in just over a week. The 10-year rate is now the lowest it’s been since 2016.

Given that we always talk about mortgage rates tracking the 10-year Treasury, shouldn’t mortgage rates be looking superb right about now? Well, not exactly. While mortgage rates tend to move in the same direction as the 10-year T-bill, there’s one big reason that mortgage rates lag behind when it comes to rapid rate changes.

When an investor buys a 10-year Treasury bond with a 2% rate, the investor knows that bond will pay 2% interest for exactly 10 years. Period.

When an investor buys a 30-year mortgage security with a 3% rate, the investor knows it will pay 3% for 30 years if and only if the borrower doesn’t sell, refinance, die. Of these, refinancing is the greatest risk when rates are moving lower.

Let’s say an investor buys a mortgage security with a loan balance of $1 million paying 3%. The investor expects to receive payments equal to the loan balance PLUS the interest paid on the loan, so the investor pays $1.04 million for the security – a premium to account for interest.

Now, let’s say rates keep dropping, and the borrower refinances after 12 months. The borrower has paid roughly $30k in interest, but the investor paid a $40k premium. Not a winning investment strategy.

Investors still want to purchase mortgage securities, so what do they do? They reduce the premium they’ll pay. The way this shows up for borrowers is in the interest rate.

In the example above, it takes $40k of premium to make everyone whole in the mortgage transaction. If the investor only offers $30k, the lender needs to make up the extra $10k, and it does that by offering the investor (and, thus, the borrower) a slightly higher interest rate – thus inducing the investor to pay the required premium.

Now, the borrower will see a lower rate than before rates fell because the cost of money is lower, but the borrower’s rate won’t fall as quickly as that of more predictable bonds, such as Treasuries.

If Treasury rates settle into the current range for a while, the refinancing risk will abate, and mortgage rates eventually will catch up.

Or maybe home prices are falling

 Real Estate Market  Comments Off on Or maybe home prices are falling
Aug 122019
 

For more information, please contact me at (512) 261-1542 or steve@LoneStarLending.com.

By G. Steven Bray

Is the housing market heating up or cooling down? Well, it depends on whom you ask. It also probably depends on where you look.

Last week, we reviewed at a Corelogic report that said home price appreciation is rising again. Today, we’ll look at a Redfin report that says the market is slowing.

According to Redfin, the national housing market has cooled dramatically. The brokerage company says home sellers are four-times less likely to receive multiple offers than a year ago. Only 12% of the offers written by its agents faced competition in Jun.

Redfin says home sales started slipping late last year when mortgage rates rose dramatically. Since then, rates have fallen back, but sales have been slow to recover. The report says properties are staying on the market longer, and more of its seller are having to drop prices than in the last two years.

Redfin reported the most dramatic slowdowns in West Coast markets.

The Case-Shiller price index seems to agree as the national index showed home price appreciation fell again in May. The reading of 3.4% was down a tick from Apr and down about 3 points from a recent peak last year.

While the index shows the pace of appreciation slowing, it’s important to remember that prices still are moving higher. In Case-Shiller’s 20-city composite index, only Seattle home prices were lower than a year ago, and prices there have been rising since Jan. For Dallas, the only TX city in the index, home prices have been rising consistently since the trough of the Great Recession.

Housing index says prices rising again

 Real Estate Market, Residential Mortgage  Comments Off on Housing index says prices rising again
Aug 062019
 

For more information, please contact me at (512) 261-1542 or steve@LoneStarLending.com.

By G. Steven Bray

Home price increases are accelerating again, so says Corelogic, a leading real estate data provider. It reported that its Home Price Index is increasing again on a month-over-month basis. In fact, the index rose 0.9% from May to Jun alone. Corelogic reported the annual increase was 3.6%.

Analyzing the reasons for the increase, Corelogic suggests lower mortgage rates may be the culprit. Rates for fixed-rate mortgages have fallen by nearly one percent since last fall.

Another reason may be homeowners’ reluctance to sell. As home prices rise, homeowners are questioning their ability to afford a replacement home, especially one in the same area. In a survey in higher-priced markets, Corelogic found three times as many people planning to buy as sell. Simple economics says that situation will put pressure on home prices.

While the current home price index remains near its recent low, Corelogic forecasts that it will rise above 5% again in the next few months. Even with continued low interest rates, that is likely to exacerbate the housing affordability problem, especially for moderate income homebuyers.

Rate update: Thank cheap Chinese imports for lower rates

 Interest Rates, Residential Mortgage  Comments Off on Rate update: Thank cheap Chinese imports for lower rates
Aug 052019
 

For more information, please contact me at (512) 261-1542 or steve@LoneStarLending.com.

By G. Steven Bray

If you needed a recipe for a rate rally, just take a look at recent financial headlines. Friday, the President announced a tariff on an additional $300B worth of Chinese imports, and the investor herd started making flight-to-safety trades, buying up US bonds. When the demand for bonds is high, rates are low (because the bond issuers don’t have to offer as much interest to entice bond purchases).

Almost lost in the stampede was last Wed’s Fed rate cut and the good jobs report on Fri. Without the stampede, I’d hazard that we’d be stuck in the summer doldrums again, wondering when rates would move higher or lower. Fed head Powell hemmed and hawed when asked if the Fed would cut rates again this year, and the jobs report was strong enough to suggest a continuation of moderate economic growth. Neither provided a clear signal to investors.

But investors got their signal Fri and believe it was reinforced by weak global economic data today. On top of that, China devalued it currency overnight to levels not seen since the depths of the Great Recession.

That matters because it suggests a number of rate friendly effects. It suggests the trade war isn’t going to end soon. By devaluing its currency, China hopes to keep its good competitive despite the tariffs. Lower import prices lead to lower inflation, the mortal enemy of interest rates. And it increases the chances of a recession, and that increases the chances the Fed will have to lower short term rates even further.

As usually happens when Treasury rates fall so quickly, only a fraction of the gain has filtered through to mortgage rates. However, if Treasury rates remain in this new, lower range, mortgage rates eventually will catch up.

Rate update: What Fed’s Powell says is important

 Interest Rates, Residential Mortgage  Comments Off on Rate update: What Fed’s Powell says is important
Jul 302019
 

For more information, please contact me at (512) 261-1542 or steve@LoneStarLending.com.

By G. Steven Bray

This is a big week for interest rates. Not only do we have a lot of important economic reports, but the Federal Reserve is expected to announce it’s reducing short term interest rates by a quarter point. The Fed has been telegraphing the rate cut for weeks, so that really shouldn’t garner much attention. Instead, markets are going to be watching what Fed head Powell says in the post-meeting press conference.

Markets WANT the Fed to continue cutting rates at subsequent meetings this year, and the Fed’s forward guidance has indicated a willingness to do so – if economic conditions warrant it. So, I’m sure Powell will get peppered with questions trying to pin him down on that question. If he pulls back on future rate cuts, mortgage rates are likely to jump. Personally, I think he’ll thread the needle, showing a willingness to cut further, but saying the timing depends on economic data.

If that happens, markets will turn their attention to Friday’s jobs report. Last month’s report rebounded strongly from relatively weak May numbers. July’s economic data has been somewhat mixed, but generally positive. Consumer spending has buoyed the economy, making up for a slowdown in the manufacturing sector.

The problem is that the latter is more likely to be affected by slowing economies overseas. Thus, another strong jobs report still might not sway markets (or the Fed) from anticipating lower rates in the months to come, which probably would leave rates in their current range. On the other hand, if job growth shows a weakening trend, I suspect interest rates will follow that trend lower.

Help your appraisal district save trees

 Regulations  Comments Off on Help your appraisal district save trees
Jul 292019
 

For more information, please contact me at (512) 261-1542 or steve@LoneStarLending.com.

By G. Steven Bray

As part of property tax reform, the State Legislature this year authorized appraisal districts to email your Notice of Appraised Value instead of mailing out a paper copy.

Don’t worry if you don’t like email, or you prefer paper records. It’s on “opt-in” system. What that means is you have to choose email delivery. It won’t happen automatically.

In order for you to receive emailed notices, you must make a written request to the Chief Appraiser of your appraisal district. The appraisal office will confirm your email address by sending an email to the address you identified.

As a fail-safe, when the Chief Appraiser sends you the Notice of Appraised Value, you have 30-day to acknowledge receipt. If you don’t respond, the appraisal office will mail the notice on the 30th day.

If you want to return to mailed notices, you simply send a written request to the Chief Appraiser to revoke email delivery.

Housing survey shows strength and caution

 Real Estate Market  Comments Off on Housing survey shows strength and caution
Jul 252019
 

For more information, please contact me at (512) 261-1542 or steve@LoneStarLending.com.

By G. Steven Bray

Homebuyers remain cautious about the housing market according to the most recent Fannie Mae National Housing Survey. The overall index dipped slightly last month after peaking at a near survey high in May.

The index was buoyed by a rise in one component: the net percentage of respondents who thinks mortgage rates will fall. The remaining components were flat or fell slightly. Interestingly, even though more folks said they think rates will fall, they’re still outnumbered by those who think they’ll rise 4 to 1.

The good-time-to-buy component fell four points last month. However, positive sentiment outweighs negative more than 2 to 1, and a majority still thinks it’s a good time to buy a home.

The good-time-to-sell component was flat, and it remains strongly positive, most likely reflecting the strong price appreciation in most markets over the past few years.

Two measures that aren’t part of the overall index concern rental prices. Respondents still think rents will rise almost twice as fast as home prices, and a majority still believes rents will rise in the coming year. Only 2% think they’ll fall. So, renters still have a strong incentive to become homebuyers.

Click here for the full report.

Rate update: Will the Fed surprise us?

 Interest Rates, Residential Mortgage  Comments Off on Rate update: Will the Fed surprise us?
Jul 232019
 

For more information, please contact me at (512) 261-1542 or steve@LoneStarLending.com.

By G. Steven Bray

Interest rates have settled back into a narrow range while markets await the Federal Reserve meeting next week. The Fed has strongly telegraphed its intention to cut short term rates, and recent positive economic data has convinced markets it will only be a quarter point cut. So, with that decided, what possible motivation could rates have to move?

Well, I’ll give you a couple, but I think they’re outliers. The first is headlines from the Middle East. So far, the US and its allies seem content mostly to ignore Iran’s provocations, allowing the punishing economic sanctions to continue to work. Should Iran get more desperate and start a shooting war, interest rates will tumble quickly.

The second is the Chinese trade tiff. I’m calling it a tiff because despite the doomsday prognostications from the experts, the damage to the US economy seems to have been quite limited. The Chinese economy, on the other hand, seems to be suffering. Should the Chinese finally decide the pain is too great and strike a deal, it will relieve some of the uncertainty that’s been keeping rates low.

Absent those events, I think it’s a balancing act between weakening foreign economies and the still-strong US economy. And as long as we remain in balance, rates really don’t have any motivation to move.

Two changes to FHA mortgage insurance

 Regulations, Residential Mortgage  Comments Off on Two changes to FHA mortgage insurance
Jul 202019
 

For more information, please contact me at (512) 261-1542 or steve@LoneStarLending.com.

By G. Steven Bray

The House Financial Services Committee recently passed two bills out of committee that could make FHA loans more attractive.

The first, The FHA Loan Affordability Act, would repeal the requirement that FHA borrowers pay mortgage insurance for the life of their loans. Mortgage insurance on conventional loans automatically ends when the loan balance is 78% of the original home value.

Mortgage insurance can considerably increase a homebuyer’s mortgage payment. On a $250k 30-year loan, mortgage insurance adds $180 to the monthly payment.

Despite the pain of never-ending mortgage insurance, this FHA requirement really has been more of an annoyance than an impediment for homebuyers who want to use an FHA loan. Home price appreciation often allows FHA borrowers to refinance into a conventional loan with no mortgage insurance within a few years of purchase, and perpetually low mortgage rates have made that an attractive option.

Interestingly, the wording of the bill appears to disallow appreciation as a means of achieving the requisite home equity to cancel mortgage insurance. Thus, homebuyers with strong credit still may favor conventional loans.

The second bill, The Housing Financial Literacy Act, would provide a 14% discount on the the upfront mortgage insurance for FHA borrowers who complete a homebuyer course prior to closing. On that $250k 30-year loan, the discount would save a homebuyer $625.

Both bills now go to the full House for consideration.

Rate update: Choppy waters ahead

 Interest Rates, Residential Mortgage  Comments Off on Rate update: Choppy waters ahead
Jul 162019
 

For more information, please contact me at (512) 261-1542 or steve@LoneStarLending.com.

By G. Steven Bray

Following the surprisingly strong jobs report at the beginning of the month, mortgage rates have started edging up again – but without conviction. Rates are being affected by several factors right now, and those factors seem fairly balanced.

On the one hand, we have deteriorating economic conditions in Europe and China worrying investors of a global economic slowdown, which would push rates down. The Federal Reserve has acknowledged this ‘fear factor,’ which made markets very happy a couple weeks ago and supported lower rates.

On the other hand, US economic conditions remain healthy, as evidenced by the strong Jun jobs report earlier this month and today’s very strong retail sales report. On top of that, the inflation report last week came in a tad higher than expected, and inflation is the big enemy of low interest rates.

I expect rates to remain choppy and noncommittal until the end of the month when the Fed meets again. Based on Fed head Powell’s Congressional testimony last week, markets fully expect the Fed to cut short term rates by 25 bp at that meeting, so that action probably won’t move the needle. However, if the Fed fails to cut rates or cuts more than expected, watch out. And we’ll talk about those possibilities in the upcoming weeks.